Editor's Note: The Life & Arts senior staff combed through this year's pop culture and selected the artists, albums, books and movements that they think, in one way or another, helped define 2011. This is the first in a two-day series.
“I’m a fucking walking paradox/No I’m not, threesomes with a fucking triceratops,” were the first words Tyler, The Creator — of rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All — rapped in his “Yonkers” music video. Despite having only been released on YouTube, and advertised solely on the underground group’s blog, the video gained millions of views in a matter of days. As Tyler rapped about flying planes into buildings and stabbing Bruno Mars to death amidst visuals of him eating cockroaches and hanging himself, it became evident that “Yonkers” itself wasn’t a phenomenon, but emblematic of one to come. That phenomenon came later this spring in the form of Tyler’s debut album, Goblin.
This year was a defining one for hip-hop, coming off the late 2010 release of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and into 2011 with Lil’ Wayne’s highly anticipated The Carter IV and Jay-Z and Kanye West’s collaborative project Watch The Throne. Despite the anticipation and notoriety of each release, none of these albums had the effect on hip-hop that Goblin did. The Carter IV, while technically proficient, was trite and something we had all heard before. Watch The Throne was two things we had heard before.
Goblin was something we had never even felt before. Tyler’s insane persona and lyrics about doing copious amounts of blow while raping and murdering women was a realm of music that had for the most part not existed, and had certainly gone untouched by the mainstream. Tyler, The Creator managed to do with Goblin what KISS and Marilyn Manson had done before: strike legitimate fear into people. Only this time, it was with a bit more substance and quality than KISS and Manson’s lackluster efforts predicated more on showmanship than the technical quality of the music.
The best part is that, like the “Yonkers” music video, Goblin reflects something even larger than itself. First and foremost, the entire Odd Future collective stands to make a serious impact on music. Hodgy Beats has quickly established himself as one of the most apt rappers in the game, and once Earl gets back from Samoa, he has the potential to become one of the greatest rappers in history. At age 15, he had a flow and wordplay beyond the level of many popular contemporary rappers.
The album also features Odd Future resident R&B singer Frank Ocean on two of its tracks. Frank Ocean is on the forefront of a massive shift within R&B. Half of Trey Songz’ catalog is about drinking champagne with “shawty” in the club, having sex with her afterwards and then crying about the emotional implications. Frank Ocean, along with Canadian phenomemenon The Weeknd stand to make huge changes to this with meaningful R&B songs that are of absurdly good quality and have the potential to appeal to a vast array of markets and cultures. They speak of love, loss and other topics common in R&B that people can relate to.
Goblin also serves as a precursor to hip-hop’s rising punk mentality. They exist at the head of a movement, featuring rappers like Waka Flocka Flame, Lil B, and others who take no prisoners and care about no one‘s impression of their music.
Editor's note: The following video contains explicit lyrics and violent imagery.